At least three of IndyCar’s “usual suspects” and three surprises created a compelling mix of drivers in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Firestone Fast Six.
Will Power (eight times), Helio Castroneves (four) and James Hinchcliffe (five) made regular trips to the top six a year ago. Power, unsurprisingly, secured his fourth straight pole in St. Petersburg.
But Takuma Sato, Simona de Silvestro and Tristan Vautier (right) had a combined one Firestone Fast Six appearance between them – Sato’s fourth place qualifying run at Edmonton a year ago – so were no doubt the big surprises of the day.
Sato and de Silvestro have each shown pace and an immediate gelling with their new teams, A.J. Foyt Racing and KV Racing Technology, this weekend, while IndyCar rookie Vautier has already taken like a duck to water on debut.
“It’s very cool, and it’s a lot of fun now,” said Vautier. “But I was a little nervous going in. The work I’ve done with Allen McDonald (engineer) and the whole team has been great.”
Sato and Vautier defended Honda’s performance, as Honda has been frequently down on the time charts this weekend although the collective nature of the field is close.
“I don’t think we, as Honda, have issues,” said Sato. “We have a good balance and a good chassis. I know Honda has been working really hard.”
For de Silvestro, making her first ever Firestone Fast Six appearance in four seasons (her prior best start was seventh at Edmonton, 2010), the ability to maximize her innate speed is something she has had to prove this weekend.
“To be honest, this winter I had a lot of doubts,” she admitted. “I wondered if I could still be fast? But it has been a big relief to be up front.”
De Silvestro and Vautier each outqualified their more heralded teammates; Tony Kanaan will start 11th, Simon Pagenaud 19th.